Sometimes, a fabric can sell a whole outfit. Whether it's a simple dress in an enchanting blue-green or a necktie with a labyrinthine print, designers know that the right fabric makes all the difference. They scour the globe for the perfect shades and patterns and weights, and we found one of their secret weapons: Fabric Frontline, a small, family-owned business in Zürich which curates and designs some of the best -- and most expensive -- luxury fabrics in the universe, specializing in silk and cashmere.
You have to be in-the-know to find it. The little shop's window, near the culturally diverse (and sex shop ridden) Langstrasse, seemingly leads nowhere; you have to go through a small courtyard to get to the showroom. Inside, you'll find a dazzling assortment of colors and prints which will take your breath away -- and which you'll see the following season from designers like Vivienne Westwood (who I'm told is a particular friend of the shop), Nina Ricci and Helmut Lang, just to name a few. In fact, according to our hostess, the fabric Isabel Toledo used to make Michelle Obama's inauguration ensemble came from here. Naturally, the fabrics travel to the most exclusive trade shows around the world, which is where the elite designers tend to shop. The public aren't typically allowed into such events, but they are allowed to shop at Fabric Frontline.
Fabric Frontline gets their silk yarn from China and has it woven in northern Italy with all-natural dyes. A clerk was kind enough to show us how printed silks are screened, involving layers of stencils and meticulous craftsmanship -- and a lot of patience. Sometimes designers buy the fabrics right off the roll, while others will approach them with drawings like these: